Market rates for social housing: East Vancouver project to take in high-income renters

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      A total of 90 social housing units are included in a proposed East Vancouver mixed-use development.

      Half of the units to be owned by B.C. Housing will be rented to low- and moderate-income households, and the other 50 percent will be for higher income tenants, who will pay market rents.

      The proposed development at 1636 Clark Drive and 1321-1395 East 1st Avenue is a joint undertaking by the City of Vancouver, the provincial housing corporation, and Vancouver Coastal Health.

      The project also includes a detoxification centre for people seeking treatment for addictions, and space for social enterprise to support community business initiatives and Indigenous wellness programs.

      B.C. Housing has sought a change in the classification of site, which is currently zoned industrial. The rezoning application is scheduled for public hearing by city council on February 20 this year.

      In a report to council, staff wrote that B.C. Housing will rent 50 percent of the 90 social housing units to households that earn either at or below the agency’s Housing Income Limits or HILs for 2018 in Vancouver.

      The provincial housing provider defines HILs as the “income required to pay the average market rent for an appropriately sized unit in the private market”.

      In Vancouver, the 2018 HILs for a studio is $41,500 a year. The amount represents the income needed to afford rent at $1,037 per month, using the 30 percent of earnings as threshold for housing affordability.

      For a one bedroom, the income is $48,000, representing rent of $1,200. For two bedrooms, the equivalent rent is $1,450 for people at or below the HILs level of $58,000. For those earning around $68,000, it’s a rent of $1,700.

      According to the staff report to council, the other half of the 90 social housing units will be rented at “private rental market rates for Vancouver”.

      The report also noted that city staff will work with B.C. Housing to “broaden and deepen the affordability based on cost analysis to ensure long-term financial viability of the housing project”.

      “The application, if approved, would deliver 90 social housing units, contributing to the achievement of City-wide social housing targets,” staff wrote.

      The City of Vancouver defines a residential development as social housing if 30 percent of the units will be occupied by residents earning below or at the annual HILs determined by the province.

      In line with this, staff recommended an exemption for B.C. Housing in paying development cost levy for the residential portion of the proposed mixed-use project at Clark Drive and East 1st Avenue. The exemption for the residential floor area of 83,430 square feet is valued at $1.9 million.